The High Court action seeks to target legislation on industrial peat harvesting
An environmental group has brought a High Court challenge that could, if successful, have a major impact on Bord na Mona’s ability to harvest peat from Kildare bogs.
The action, by Friends of the Irish Environment, specifically targets new regulations that allow for the industrial extraction of peat from bogs.
Their argument is that the new regulations mean that large scale peat extraction does not require planning permission, and is instead licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The group claim this will allow unauthorised industrial extraction of peat to continue for many years unassessed and unregulated. They also claim that these regulations fail to comply with several EU directives on the protection of the Environment.
The regulations are known as the 2019 European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment (Peat Extraction) Regulations, and the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) regulations 2019.
The group is bringing its action against the Ministers for Communication, Climate Action and Environment, the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, as well as Ireland and the Attorney General, and aims to quash the making of the regulations by both the Minister for Communication and the Minister for Housing in January of this year.
The court action, if successful, could undermine the legislation governing Bord na Mona harvesting peat, although it should be noted that it also comes at a time when Bord na Mona has announced its commitment to ending peat harvesting in the next few years.
The group, represented in the High Court on Monday by James Devlin SC, Oisin Collins Bl and instructed by solicitor Aoife O’Connell, claims the majority of Irish industrial peatlands are operated by Bord Na Mona, which has been licensed by the EPA since 1999.
Friends of the Irish Environment also claims the remainder of the industrial peat operations, which supplies approximately 500,000 m3 of horticultural peat into the Uk market, has been operating without planning permission or licences from the EPA.
They also claimed in their High Court action that none of the large scale industrial activity on Irish bogs has undergone proper environmental assessments.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted Friends of the Irish Environment permission to bring the action and adjourned it to May.